Consumer group seeks to ban ATVs from paved roads

Publish Date: 
Mar 18, 2014

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A nationwide consumer group is calling on the industry and legislators to work to ban ATV use on paved roads as a safety measure.

Consumer Federation of America documented the growing trend toward states and local governments allowing ATV use on public paved roads. A majority of ATV deaths occur on roads.

In the report, "ATVs on Roadways: A Safety Crisis,“ CFA evaluated laws from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The report finds that in spite of warnings from manufacturers, federal agencies, and consumer and safety advocates that ATVs are unsafe on roadways, for several years an increasing number of states have passed laws allowing ATVs on public roads.

The report also analyzes recent research on ATV fatalities on roadways and provides recommendations to reverse the trend.

Information from ATV manufacturer manuals, required warning labels, and consistent messages from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission unambiguously warn against the operation of ATVs on public roads. The design of ATVs makes them incompatible with operation on roads because of their high centers of gravity and narrow wheelbases, which increase the likelihood of tipping when negotiating turns.The low pressure knobby tires on ATVs are explicitly designed for off-road use and may not interact properly with road surfaces.

“ATVs should not be operated on roads. Yet, an increasing number of states ignore evidence from consumer advocates, doctors, law enforcement officials and the ATV industry and pass laws increasing ATV access on roads. These conflicting messages are leading to consumer confusion about what constitutes safe riding practices,” stated Rachel Weintraub, legislative director and senior counsel for Consumer Federation of America. “This trend is going in the wrong direction.”

Data from the U.S Consumer Product Safety Commission and from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System documents that a majority of ATV deaths take place on roads.

  • According to the CPSC’s most recent complete data from 2007, as analyzed by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 492 of 758 deaths, or 65 percent of ATV fatalities occurred on roads.
  • According to CPSC’s data, ATV on-road deaths have increased more than ATV off-road deaths.
  • According to NHTSA’s FARS database, 74 percent of ATV deaths occur on paved roads.

"The vast majority of ATV fatalities in the nations are occurring on roads," Weintraub said. "This is incredibly strong evidence supporting that ATV on-road operation is hazardous and should be prohibited."

The CFA analysis of state laws found:

  • 35 states, or 69 percent of states, allow ATVs on certain roads under certain conditions.
  • Of these 35 states, 22 states, or 63 percent, have passed laws allowing or expanding ATV access on roads since 2004. Four states have passed such laws in 2013 alone.
  • 31 of the 35 states, or 89 percent, that allow ATVs on paved roads delegate some or all of the decisions about ATV access to local jurisdictions with authority over those roads.

While not a complete list, CFA documented at least 18 state or local current efforts to increase ATV access on roads.

"There is a clear 10-year trend toward increasing legal ATV access on roads that shows no sign of abating given the many examples of pending proposals," said Michael Best, policy advocate at Consumer Federation of America. "While state laws vary about how they increase ATV access to roads – permitting certain classes of roads to be open to ATVs (Florida); delegating ATV access decisions to local authorities (Iowa); and allowing ATVs to be registered as a motor vehicle (Arizona) – any type of access to roads is dangerous."

CFA's recommendations, continued on next page